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The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.


this past thursday saw the end of my hectic autumn quarter. coming off a busy (but joyful) summer of 13 weddings (which we will always remember if nothing else!), my summer break from school was not as–shall we say “restful”–as usual. so when fall rolled around and i signed up for a heavier course load than usual, i knew that i would have something to celebrate on december 10, 2009.

so when, at the end of a long two weeks of research and pumping out papers, my husband picked me up after my final class of the quarter and asked me where i would like to go to celebrate, i asked if we could go home. but with conditions.

i wanted to go home, drink a bottle of beaujolais noveau, and feast on artisan crackers, oat cakes, fig jam, quince paste, goat gouda and iberico cheese. the wine went with with both combos: goat gouda with fig spread on sea salt crackers, and iberico with quince paste on oatcakes.

i thought drinking beaujolais nouveau on this occasion was particularly fitting as drinking beaujolais nouveau is seen as a celebration of a successful harvest (or quarter, in my case!). the grapes are harvested in september, and the wines are released on the 3rd thursday of november each year. the wine itself is very light, barely fermented, fruity, but not sweet. refreshing would be a good word for it. and it pairs well with goat gouda and figs.

speaking of figs, dalmatia fig spread is one of my favorite accompaniments to cheese and crackers. it’s like a fig jam, but very sticky–though it spreads very well on crackers. dalmatia is a region in croatia on the coast of the adriatic sea–famous for its figs. the fig spread from the damlatia farming families are hand-picked and sun-dried on wooden pallets. i have not tried the orange-fig spread, made from kocula island oranges, but that is my next great fruit spread adventure.

essential bakery in my neighborhood produces amazing breads and pastries. for example, the “sweet perrin” bread–made with hazelnuts, pears and currants, makes fantastic french toast. in terms of pastries, essential makes the best croissants stuffed with raspberry jam. they also also fabulous oversized crackers. every variety is delicious. for my most recent adventure with cheese i chose the sea salt crackers (other varieties include rosemary, sesame, and cracked pepper). they are large, and i enjoy breaking them into bite size pieces, smearing them with fig jam, and laying a thin piece of goat cheese on top. fabulous.

i haven’t really ever been a big gouda fan. my local fred meyer mega grocery/everything you could want store recently expanded their gourmet and organic food offerings, resulting in a larger-than-life cheese section. they also have ample samples. after tasting this cablanca goat gouda, i started thinking about how fantastic it would taste with fig spread and sea salt crackers. it has a creamy texture, and the signature tang of goat cheese. it doesn’t feel–oily–like gouda sometimes does, kind of like cheddar cheeses. it pairs very well with fruits.

the first time i had quince paste was at tea in kensington palace gardens. the quince came with oatcakes and a particular kind of english cheese that is not available in my region (for now!) but it was really good. trying to recreate the experience, my husband and i found quince paste at the aforementioned fred meyer. quince is a tree-fruit related to the apple and pear. they were prized by the ancient romans, and exchanged as tokens of affection. quince paste is popular in europe and the middle east, but less popular outside those regions. it is a very thick jam, almost like jelly candies in texture, and just the right amount of sweet. while it tastes like a fruit, it has a distinct floral quality. the quince paste that we got was a spanish quince paste, meant to be served with spanish cheese.

we ate our quince paste with iberico cheese. it’s a hard cheese from spain that is made from cow, goat, and sheep’s milk. it’s meant to be used as a table cheese (like cheddar) and can be grated or sliced for sandwiches, etc. it has a unique taste, but still pretty mild. when we came home we looked it up on the internet and found that it is meant to be eaten with quince paste and a young red. check, and check!

we have been looking everywhere for scottish oatcakes, and finally found some at an imports market. walker’s highland oatcakes are not as good as the oatcakes i had in england, but are still fairly delicious. the oatcakes/quince/iberico pairing was fantastic! oatcakes are really sandy and crumbly, and are a little heavy and fibrous. they are a really nice textural change from crackers, if you feel like mixing it up.

it was a delicious feast, and a fitting way to wrap up one of my more intense quarters of school. but it was also pretty easy on the budget. we got most things from our local fred meyer and trader joe’s, who have pretty reasonable prices, and enjoyed a fancy celebration for the same cost, or less, as going out to a local happy hour!